PEPPER PIKE — The Orange Board of Education is in the midst of revising policies including one about social media.

In the new policy, the board states that technology is a “powerful tool to enhance education, communication and learning.” The policy states that the board authorizes the use of social media to promote community involvement and facilitate effective communication with students, parents, staff and the general public.

“It needs to have proper limitations,” Vice President of the Board of Education Deborah Kamat said.

The proposed policy, however, goes on to say that students must be taught how to use social media platforms safely and responsibly. According to the social media policy, federal law mandates that the school district educate the students on appropriate online behavior and cyberbullying awareness and response.

The Orange City School District states in the policy that it neither encourages nor discourages employees’ use of social media for personal purposes. The policy states that it regulates employees’ use of social media related to the school district “to the same extent that it regulates any other form of employee communication in that regard.”

The policy states that the staff may also use social media platforms for classroom instruction or school-sponsored activities. In this case, the platform would not be considered a limited public forum, and students’ use of the social media platform must be consistent with the student code of conduct. In addition, staff members must offer parents the ability to opt-out of having their child use social media platforms. Mrs. Kamat stressed the importance of controlling the messages on social media.

“Social media exists and it’s going to be shared via others,” she said. “It’s good to get a hold of that message and control that message.”

According to the social media policy, the school district is committed to protecting the privacy rights of students, parents, staff, board members and others. Superintendent Lynn Campbell also stated the importance of protecting individuals’ privacy on social media.

“We have to make sure that privacy and data are protected for our kids,” Dr. Campbell said.

Board member Melanie Weltman recalled discussing this several years ago, and noted how much the use of social media in everyday life has grown in the last couple years.

The policy also states that the school district uses approved social media platforms as interactive forms of communication and accepts public comments, as they are considered limited public forums. The district plans to monitor posted comments in a neutral manner. Employees’ personal posts would be limited to matters of general public interest and administrators would not typically be allowed to post personal comments at risk of the comment being misconstrued as board-sponsored speech, according to the policy.

The social media policy is the only new board policy. Other policies were revised by the Policy Committee, which includes board members Mrs. Kamat and Mrs. Weltman. The board will review the policy again at the April 8 board meeting.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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